When conditions are right, snowy winter pet portraits can be beautiful – even magical! Fresh, fluffy snow, sparkly sunshine, evergreens and tall dried grass… gorgeous! But here in Minnesota, there are a few extra considerations when planning your outdoor winter dog photography session.
It’s easy to schedule your outdoor photo sessions in the spring, summer and fall. Most of the time the weather is pleasant and there might be flowers blooming or vibrant fall colors. We may need to reschedule if it’s raining or dangerously hot, but in general there’s not much to worry about. Winter brings some different challenges we need to work around to ensure the very best experience for everyone.
I like to only schedule outdoor winter sessions when it’s around 20 degrees or warmer. Too much colder, and it becomes uncomfortable for us humans and many dog breeds. (Although your arctic breeds will love it!) For you, your cheeks, nose, and fingers will get red and not look as good in the photos. Your dog, depending on how they tolerate the cold, may start shivering and picking up their paws. They might need to wear a coat for safety – do you want to see their coat in every photo from your session?
There are exceptions, of course: if it’s 10-15 degrees and sunny with no wind, that can be perfectly pleasant. However, if wind chills are below zero, that’s an absolute “no” – I won’t put you or your dogs at risk.
I don’t want anybody getting frostbite or having an unpleasant time, and that includes me! When my fingers get too cold I have less dexterity in using my camera properly. The battery drains faster and I’ve found the delicate functionality inside the camera suffers when it’s very cold outside. It doesn’t focus as quickly or accurately, and the workings just feel slower.
If it’s too cold, let’s either wait for a warmer day or schedule an in-studio session instead! It’s nice and warm inside, everyone will be comfortable, and the gear will work the way it should.
Snow (or lack thereof)
This year’s strange, snow-less Minneapolis winter makes everything feel a bit “blah.” It’s been above freezing, raining, everything was muddy… not super fun to sit on the ground with your dog. While an area of monotone, leafless trees can look very cool in photos, it’s also been really cloudy for a long time. Without the sun shining through those trees and adding some color and contrast, your pictures can look flat and boring.
When we DO get snow, it’s easier to get pretty backgrounds in your photos, especially if that snow is sticking to the trees. I love finding an area of snow that nobody has walked on yet for clean, smooth surroundings. If the snow is fluffy, it’s fun to toss it in the air and capture sparkly flakes in the sun as well.
However, if there’s too much snow, it limits where we can go. If we can’t walk through the snow or your dog is falling through, we’ll need to use a shoveled/plowed area and those typically don’t look as nice as the untouched areas.
Time of day for the best dog photos
With the sun setting so early in the winter, we may need to schedule your outdoor “evening” session as early as 2:30pm. If you have a flexible schedule that’s no problem, but if you work 9-5 our options become much more limited. When it’s dark before and after work we’ll need to schedule on a weekend. But, weekend dates fill up quickly, and we’re at the mercy of whatever the weather is doing that day.
Early morning sessions can be really lovely any time of year, and one advantage to winter is that we don’t need to get up at 5am to do them! Sunrise is between 7am-8am in the winter, so it’s a much a more reasonable timeframe if you (like me!) are not necessarily a morning person.
An important aspect to consider for winter pet portraits is how safe the road conditions are. The majority of time the roads are ok, but we all know they can quickly become icy and dangerous. I’m not willing to put my clients or myself at risk to drive on very slippery roads for a photo session.
By wearing the appropriate clothing and accessories, your outdoor winter dog photography session will be much more comfortable. Bundle up for warmth, but still think about styling your outfit with a coordinating hat, scarves, mittens, etc, and a nice-looking, well-fitted coat. If your dog needs to wear a coat, pick one that you love and will want to see in photos for years to come. It can be fun to put “human” accessories on your dog like hats and scarves too!
Bring a blanket to sit on the snow without your pants getting wet, and consider hand warmers in your pockets for quick warm-ups in between shots.
Planning ahead for winter dog photos
The best way to have a successful outdoor winter photo session is to plan ahead. If you know your dog is getting close to the end of life, please don’t wait until they’re on their last couple of days to schedule a Joy Session. (This is true for any time of year, but especially important during the winter.) What if there’s a blizzard and I can’t make it to you in time? Flu and covid cases increase in the winter, what if one of us gets sick?
Reach out with plenty of lead time, and we can keep an eye on the forecast and pick the absolute best day and conditions for your outdoor winter dog photography session!